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INDIANAPOLIS – A season-opening loss does sting a little more, Frank Reich admitted on Monday afternoon after reviewing the film of his team’s 34-23 defeat to the Bengals.

That sting must result in learning experiences for a youthful roster dealing with the inevitable bumps of an NFL regular season.

On Monday, Reich met the media following his film evaluation of the team’s Week One contest.

What did Reich have to say on Monday?

  • Much was made about Jack Doyle (77-of-82 snaps) playing 40 snaps more than Eric Ebron (37-of-82) on Sunday. It was clear that the Colts wanted Doyle to be the primary tight end in their 3-receiver sets against the Bengals. That was evident on the game’s final drive, when the Colts went up-tempo and Doyle was on the field for all 13 snaps. It’s hard to sub there, so I totally get the Colts wanting a guy that Andrew Luck is more used to (and typically is very reliable) in such a chaotic situation. Personnel packages will certainly evolve over the year, so I really don’t have much of an issue with Ebron not out there in crunch time of the season opener. Reich said on Monday that the 37 snaps for Ebron is about the playing time target for him moving forward: “I thought he played about the number of plays that we would expect him to play,” the head coach said. You take out the final drive and Ebron still played over half of the team’s snaps. Reich knows that Ebron is needed for this offense to truly be consistently successful in 2018. Ebron had 4 catches for 51 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. Doyle had 7 grabs for 60 yards.
  • The head coach pointed to the lack of explosive plays as a reason for Sunday’s loss. Under the team’s metrics, the Colts were ‘minus 4’ in explosive plays, having just one play of more than 20 yards (the Eric Ebron touchdown catch). Even though the Colts came out even in the turnover battle, losing the chunk plays stood out to the head coach.
  • While the Colts achieved their goals in third-down conversions (11-of-17) and completion percentage (73.6{fab3f08856d3659b6f8938bb66207399a6d3abd1bf707f3e877b11f1c3809e02}), the red-zone struggles left Reich knowing the Colts needed more. “Felt like we needed more points,” Reich said on Monday. “Felt like we had opportunities to extend our lead and failed to convert on extending our lead like we should have.” The Colts were 1-of-3 in the red zone, and that doesn’t include the Jack Doyle fumble, which occurred at the Bengals 15-yard line. They have to be better there.
  • We pointed out a couple of difficulties Reich had in juggling his head coach duties on Sunday. He acknowledged both on Monday, pointing to not taking a timeout with the Colts having 12 men on the field, on the Bengals’ eventual game-winning touchdown drive, as a coaching mistake. Reich was further down on the sideline during this drive, planning the next offensive series. His assistants were signaling for a timeout, which they cannot call. “I have to keep my eyes on that drive, the whole time it’s going,” Reich said on Monday.
  • Overall, Reich was pretty pleased with how things flowed from a play calling standpoint. He would like one play back from the Jack Doyle fumble drive though. Reich said a screen pass call, on a 1st-and-10 from the Cincinnati 25-yard line with around a minute to play, was a move where he should have given Andrew Luck an additional play call to check to, if the Colts didn’t get the right pre-snap look. Reich was expecting zone coverage there. Instead, the Bengals were in man coverage and tackled Hines for a 5-yard loss. Doyle fumbled two plays later.
  • Defensively, Reich loved the fast start. But the run defense (20 carries for 101 yards, 5.1 yards per carry) is something the Colts need to correct. “It’s all about being gap sound, getting effort to the ball,” Reich said about the run defense after talking with coordinator Matt Eberflus. “By and large, we will able to do that at times, but we’ve got to get better. We limited the number of yards they had, but we have to get better with yards per carry.”
  • Rookie Nyheim Hines was a major factor in the Week One game plan. He received 14 targets/touches in just 37 snaps. That’s a strong ratio for a player who struggled on special teams in August and was largely hidden with the first-team offense during the preseason. “That’s a lot of the stuff that we’d been repping and felt good about, a good role for Nyheim and for him to contribute and use him in space and use his speed,” Reich said on Monday. “There’s no magic to it. You try to be a little bit creative. You can’t go crazy. It still comes down to execution. When you are moving guys around and motioning and shifting personnel groups. At the end of the day, we are still running a lot of the same core plays, but you are just trying to create a seed of doubt in the defensive player’s mind. It can really go a long way. Sometimes you can do that by moving guys around.”
  • The Colts had some success on a third-quarter touchdown drive by going up-tempo. Frank Reich touched on the ‘when to use up-tempo’ topic by saying this: “We could do it the whole game if we wanted to and I have done it the whole game as a play caller and as a quarterback. We keep all options open. But I think it’s best in bits and pieces.”
  • Reich didn’t provide any injury updates on Anthony Castonzo (hamstring) or Marlon Mack (hamstring) practicing on a full basis this coming week. Both were inactive on Sunday after participating on a limited basis for multiple days last week.
  • In other injury news, right tackle J’Marcus Webb injured his right hamstring on the Bengals fumble return for a touchdown late in the game. This is an injury to watch if Castonzo doesn’t return in Week Two. Cornerback Chris Milton is in the concussion protocol.
  • The last two road games for the Colts have been in a blizzard (Buffalo) and a monsoon (Baltimore). Well, Hurricane Florence is tracking for the mid-Atlantic around Friday, with around 3-5 inches of rain possible this weekend. And the Colts are playing in Landover, Maryland on Sunday against the Washington Football Team (1-0). Reich said the Colts are preparing for potential inclement weather. “You keep that in mind,” Reich said. “There could be a lot of rain, so you do have to factor that in a little bit. It’s not dramatic. There’s normally enough in the game plan that you can adjust once you get there. We do kind of make slight adjustments and slights points of emphasis once the game plan is made and we see the weather conditions.”

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